Doug McAbee's art puts bright, shiny finish on a harsher reality


“The Green Grabber” is one of the pieces included in an exhibit by Doug McAbee at the Chapman Cultural Center.

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Published: Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.

When you look at Doug McAbee's artwork, you just know there's a story behind each and every piece. There are whales with stick legs, big-headed people riding little animals, tabletop sculptures seemingly dipped and completely covered in high-gloss bright paint.

You're free to take a guess at what each might be telling you, but you probably won't connect the exhibit at the Chapman Cultural Center with its overall source of inspiration. “The One About Pop” was created in the wake of McAbee's father's death in 2012.

There is no direct mourning reflected among the 21 pieces of two- and three-dimensional abstract works. If anything, at first consideration, they are happy images: surreal Sharpie drawings of a mind's fantasy landscapes and a cast of unreal characters; simple sculptures that might look like something real, but then again, maybe not. It's not until that second look that you begin to wonder what's beneath the surface.

In both content and media, McAbee's work is more than it appears. His most recent cartoonish drawings are on knotty panels of birch wood: The wood grain and dark spots purposely show through the colorful scenes, giving the images a contrasting sense of creative optimism that tries to cover up a harsh and darker reality. This concept is repeated with his sculptures.

All of the work is for sale, ranging in price from $150 to $1,050.

An assistant art professor at Lander University, McAbee, 40 and a native of Spartanburg, welcomes interpretation of his work. He is content in knowing that most of the pieces were inspired by his father's character and the entertaining stories that he told.

“At my father's funeral, the family was standing around telling stories and laughing,” McAbee said. “Yes, it was a sad time, but we found the good in the memory of my dad and celebrated it.”

“The One About Pop” is sponsored by Artists' Guild of Spartanburg until Jan. 28. It is open and free to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. McAbee will host a free reception at this month's ArtWalk, Thursday, Jan. 17, 6-9 p.m. He will publicly talk about his work at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about this art exhibit at Chapman Cultural Center, please call 542-ARTS.

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